“The Philippine government cannot just simply throw all consistent and persistent accounts of violations and frustrations with domestic remedies through the token of another washing machine to discombobulate the mind and deodorize the foul stink.”
By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – A network of human rights advocates said it cannot help but be cynical on the statements presented by the Philippine government on the 44th regular session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) on Tuesday, June 30, in Geneva, Switzerland.
In his speech at the UNHRC, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said that the government’s campaign against illegal drugs are “always within the law and in respect of human rights.”
He added that President Duterte’s campaign against illegal drugs, which is his campaign promise to eliminate, is supported by the people.
The Ecumenical Voice for Human Rights and Peace in the Philippines (EcuVoice) retorted, “The pledges and comments though now delivered in more sober and studied tones appear to be damage control to save its international reputation, preempt any further concrete and decisive international opportunities or mechanisms for accountability, and to provide the environment to wreak more damage on the Filipino people in its draconian solutions to the drug menace, rampant criminality, pandemic catastrophe and the supposed threat of terrorism.”
Guevarra claimed that as proof of its commitment to human rights, the Philippine government created an inter-agency panel that will look into the 5,655 deaths in police operation in line with the administration’s campaign against illegal drugs. Guevarra said the Department of Justice will head the panel and will engage the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) as an independent monitoring body.
In reaction, EcuVoice said, “Saccharine statements at appeasing widespread condemnation and creating yet another government body to address unabated impunity and support self-serving claims that domestic remedies are adequate, prompt and credible become soporific in the face of previous experience and present realities.”
The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), in its report, said that while they cannot verify the number of extrajudicial killings without further investigations, information gathered on the matter showed that “drug campaign-related killings appear to have a widespread and systematic character.”
The OHCHR cited government data showing that at least 8,663 people have been killed in “drug-related” operations.
The OHCHR noted the impunity with regard to drug-related killings, adding that the government has cited only one case – that of 17-year-old Kian delos Santos – where three police officers were convicted of a drug campaign-related killing.
“Although the Government noted that 9,172 police personnel faced administrative cases, it remains unclear how many of these cases are related to extrajudicial killings. OHCHR also notes that administrative sanctions are insufficient where there are serious allegations of violations of the right to life,” the report read.
The OHCHR further pointed out that under international human rights law, the Philippines is obliged to establish rules and procedures for mandatory reporting, review, and investigation of lethal and other life threatening incidents by law enforcement personnel. “Where there are allegations that it knows or should have known of potentially unlawful deprivations of life, it has the duty to investigate and, where appropriate, prosecute the perpetrators,” it said.
EcuVoice reiterated that an independent investigation mechanism of the UNHRC should look into the human rights situation in the Philippines as recommended by UN High Commissioner on Human Rights Michelle Bachelet in her report.
“The Philippine government cannot just simply throw all consistent and persistent accounts of violations and frustrations with domestic remedies through the token of another washing machine to discombobulate the mind and deodorize the foul stink. It needs to seriously and sincerely read very well the writings on the wall,” the group said.